Former LGBTQ members of the U.S. Armed Forces have taken legal action against the Department of Defense, alleging that they were unfairly discharged due to their sexual orientation. These veterans are now challenging the military’s policies that discriminated against LGBTQ individuals and are seeking honorable discharges. The plaintiffs are also concerned about the violation of their privacy with the disclosure of their sexual orientations on their service records.
By being discharged with less-than-honorable discharges, these former service members are being denied various veteran benefits, such as healthcare, loan programs, and college tuition assistance. According to a report by NBC News, the revelation of their sexual orientations on their records is seen as an infringement on their privacy rights.
During the time when the U.S. military had regulations prohibiting LGBTQ individuals from serving, more than 13,000 military personnel were discharged under the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT) policy, as reported by the Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law. The Trump administration later implemented a ban on transgender members, which was repealed by the Biden administration in 2021.
One of the plaintiffs, U.S. Army veteran Steven Egland, expressed that it is time for the government to rectify the discrimination against LGBTQ service members. He stated, “All of those who served deserve to have documents that reflect the honor in our service.” Egland also shared the emotional impact of his discharge, saying, “Because of the circumstances and language of my discharge, which served as a painful reminder of the trauma I experienced, I was never able to proudly say that I served my country.”
A key objective of the lawsuit is to streamline the discharge modification process for veterans. The current application process is considered burdensome, lengthy, and difficult to navigate. The plaintiffs’ lawyer argued that the existing process is inaccessible for many veterans and called for a more accessible and just system.
In 2021, Democrats in Congress and the Senate introduced measures calling for an apology from the U.S. government for the mistreatment of LGBTQ members of the military in the past. The lawsuit contends that if the Department of Defense does not reform the process, it perpetuates “Government’s ongoing discrimination” against LGBTQ veterans.
The U.S. Department of Defense declined to comment on the ongoing litigation, according to a spokesperson.